The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn’t necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable “best" thing. Instead, it’s more just us picking out the single game out of the week’s releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.
These picks might be controversial, and that’s OK. If you disagree with what we’ve chosen, let’s try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.
Without further ado…
Human Resource Machine
Tomorrow Corporation has brought us lovely, dark, and though-provoking experiences like World of Goo ($4.99) and Little Inferno ($4.99), and this week they passed their most recent offering Human Resource Machine ($4.99) from desktop and Wii U over to mobile. As I’m always up to my ears in mobile stuff and don’t always pay close attention to the console and PC space, I honestly had never heard of Human Resource Machine, which originally launched in October of last year. However, knowing the pedigree of this developer I figured I was in for a treat, but I didn’t quite expect to be so blown away with how ingenious of a puzzle game Human Resource Machine manages to be.
This is a game that’s based around the principles of very basic visual programming. You play as an office worker tasked with taking packages from an inbox conveyor belt and tranferring them to an outbox conveyor belt, with various rules in place for doing so in each level. For example, you may have a series of numbered boxes where you need to transfer all boxes except for the ones marked with a zero. Or you may have to grab the first two numbered boxes and add them together and end up with a box with the resulting number on it to take to the outbox. It sounds a little strange but the game does a great job at walking you through these basic principles early on.
You accomplish your mundane tasks by utilizing a series of set commands which you drag and drop in the order needed. There can also be spare spaces on the floor which act as “memory" for you to hold certain boxes in, if needed. So for that second example given above, you’d start with a command to grab a box from the inbox, then a command to take it to a space on the floor, then a command to run back and grab the next box from the inbox, then a command to add that box to the box on the floor, and finally a command to take that resulting box to the outbox. Thankfully, you can also initiate repeat cycles so you don’t have to create a massively long chain of commands to complete a level.
The crazy thing about Human Resource Machine is that it’s simply a puzzle game at heart, but rooted in the ideas of programming. But programming code is basically just a puzzle anyway, so it all ends up making more sense than you might guess. Even though I’ve worked in gaming for 6 years and have seen projects mid-development and talked to countless developers, I really don’t know squat about coding. After playing through just the first batch of levels in Human Resource Machine, I feel like I have a far better understanding of how code makes games work. A very rudimentary understanding mind you, but an understanding nonetheless. That’s a very powerful thing for a game to accomplish.
The thing I’m not so sure about is how seasoned programmers might take to the game. As someone who knows basically nothing, I’m finding this a fascinating learning experience. I’m not so sure if that would be true for a 20-year veteran of the craft. At least Human Resource Machine is steeped in the dark humor and tongue-in-cheek look at corporate lifestyle that you’d expect from Tomorrow Corporation, so even if you find the puzzle aspects way too easy it’s still an enjoyable game to experience. Having pars for the number of commands used and number of moves taken to complete a level adds an extra challenge to the mix as well.
No matter your level of familiarity with programming, I think Human Resource Machine is worth taking a look at. Not only have I learned a bunch from it already, but I’m finding the puzzle aspects to be challenging and rewarding, and I absolutely love the art style and music. This is a quality production through and through and is one of the more unique types of games out there, and now it has the ability to fit snugly in your pocket and travel with you wherever you go.